Katie Kent ’88, professor of English, recently accepted the invitation to direct the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford for the next two years. As director of the program, Kent’s responsibilities will include serving as an academic and personal advisor to College students enrolled in the program and arranging tutorials for the program’s students. Additionally, as tutor for visiting students at Exeter, Kent will work closely with Exeter Fellows and other Oxford faculty as liaison for the program to Oxford.
The Williams-Exeter Programme is a highly selective program that gives 26 juniors the opportunity to study at Exeter College, one of Oxford’s constituent colleges. The yearlong program allows College students to become full undergraduate members of Oxford, giving them access to nearly all of the university’s facilities and resources.
As a member of the second group of students to participate in this prestigious program, Kent studied at Oxford from 1986 to 1987 and is considered a pioneer of the program.
Reflecting on her year there, Kent said, “That experience changed my life – it affirmed for me that I wanted to go on to graduate school and earn a Ph.D.
“The program taught me to take primary responsibility for one’s learning, and I loved it,” she said.
After graduating from the College, Kent went on to earn her Master’s and Ph.D. from Duke University in 1993 and 1996, respectively. She then returned to the College in 1997 as a member of the English department.
Currently, Kent serves as chair of the women’s gender, and sexuality studies (WGSS) department. “I work mostly at the conjunction of queer theory and American literature, and that was the focus of my first book, Making Girls into Women: American Women Writers and the Rise of Lesbian Identity,” Kent said.
Kent is presently working on the authorized biography of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, whose work helped to create the field of queer theory. As chair of WGSS, Kent said she has worked closely with a number of students, staff and faculty. “This experience should serve me well as I administer the Williams at Oxford Programme,” she said.
Kent has scholarly connections with Oxford, which should also help her in her new role. Her former tutor at the program, Jeri Johnson, is now the head English tutor at Exeter. Moreover, Kent has many colleagues in her field in London.
Following Nancy Roseman, professor of biology and current director of the Williams-Exeter Programme, Kent will start her two-year commitment on July 1, 2012. At Exeter, Kent said she plans to join reading groups devoted to biography and explore a myriad of resources, such as Oxford’s famous Bodleian Library. Although Kent said she will miss her colleagues and students at the College, she added, “I hope I can help Williams students get the most out of their experience at the program just as I did.”
The program was first founded in 1985 after the College purchased a number of houses in Oxford. Since then, motivated College students have had the opportunity to study at Oxford.
The students selected for the program each year live together along with four to six Exeter students in the Ephraim Williams House, which is approximately 1.5 miles from Exeter College in the center of Oxford. Over the course of three trimesters, College students are expected to take at least five tutorials, each of which is eight weeks long.